Gay man proud of growth he sees in his hometown
© cory Hurley
Jason Wells speaks with fellow Western Pride Newfoundland member Chelsea Noel, left, and Janice Kennedy, community development facilitator with the Western Regional Coalition to End Violence on Monday, Sept. 23, 2013.
CORNER BROOK — There’s a fair bit of pride these days in being a gay man in Corner Brook, according to Jason Wells.
It wasn’t always that way for the Corner Brook resident, but he says the city and the people in it have come a long way in their reception and support of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) community.
As a teenager, Wells described his life as a bit awkward. A lot of his uncertainty in how to approach the realization he was gay, he attributes to the lack of support and resources available to him at the time. As a young man, he was left to figure a lot of things out for himself.
“The word I think would be lonely,” he said. “I kind of felt I was the only gay in the village — though I wasn’t.”
There was more ignorance among his peers, according to him, than gay bashing or bullying. He said gay and homosexual were terms often used in off-coloured ways, but not necessarily in a direct homophobic or malicious way.
Wells come out as openly gay during his first year at Memorial University Grenfell Campus, where he later completed a visual arts degree. It was a difficult decision for him, because of the uncertainity he had of people’s reaction. A lot of that fear he thinks came from media portrayals and horror stories of people being disowned by their family and friends. However, his fears were quickly extinguished, and he has had an overwhelming support of family and friends.
Looking back, he is not even sure why it was necessary.
“If Jason from today could go back, I would probably just not even tell people,” he said. “I would just live my life. But, it is a right of passage that gay people right now have to face — as unpleasant as it is.”
Still, he recognizes the sense of relief that follows coming out, especially when the support is there.
Now an active member of the LGBTQ community, a promotor and organizer of Western Pride Newfoundland, he takes satisfaction in the growth his hometown has experienced.
While he understands there are still many people who experience that lonely feeling he did as a youth, Wells said barriers are being broken down all the time. He feels the gay/straight alliance at Corner Brook Regional High is an asset to the community. He also said acceptance is also achieved more and more because of the work of people throughout the community.
For the first time, Pride Week activities are being celebrated for an entire week in Corner Brook. Festivities were kicked off with the signing of a proclamation and flag raising at city hall Monday morning, followed by a coffeehouse at Brewed Awakenings that evening.
A queer trivia night is scheduled tonight at The Backlot. The unveiling of the first gender-neutral washroom on Grenfell Campus will take place Wednesday afternoon, while there will be a screening of an LGBTQ-themed movie at Grenfell Campus Thursday.
The weekend events get underway with a queer prom at The Backlot Friday night. There will be a bonfire on Pasadena Beach, and an evening at the Oasis, Saturday. Sunday’s Pride Parade will conclude the weeklong festivities. The walk from city hall to Margaret Bowater Park begins at about noon, and will be followed by games, music and a barbecue.
Wells said the community support has been tremendous.
“I have just been really happy that this is Corner Brook, and this is happening,” he said. “I have been in some kind of bubbled cloud all week.”
Wells is pleased with where things are locally for the LGBTQ community, but he is far from content. He has many ideas and visions of what could happen one day, including possibly establishing an LGBTQ centre.
“Corner Brook in some ways is growing and blossoming,” he said. “I just feel really good about Corner Brook right now.”